Higher Education Officials Brace for Cuts
By David Harrison, Staff Writer
HIGHER ED TARGETED: University officials in several states got bad news this week when governors rolled out their proposed budgets. In California , Governor Jerry Brown wants to cut $1.4 billion from the state university system, according to the Los Angeles Times , a cut that could lead to layoffs, furloughs, larger classes and tuition increases. In Arizona , Governor Jan Brewer has suggested cutting universities by 20 percent and community colleges by half, forcing them to rely more on local property taxes and tuition, writes the Arizona Daily Star . And in Georgia , students could see tuition increases of up to 30 percent, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution . A popular lottery-funded scholarship program in the state also faces deep cuts. State policy makers often target higher education for cuts ahead of K-12 schools because colleges and universities have the option of raising tuition to make up for lost revenue.
TEXAS SCHOOL CUTS: Facing a potential $27 billion funding shortfall, the Texas House of Representatives rolled out a budget that underfunds K-12 education by $9.8 billion and cuts at least 60,000 students off from financial aid programs, according to the Dallas Morning News . Lawmakers would have to rewrite the school funding formula to cut funding to local school districts, which are entitled to more state funding to deal with higher enrollments. School officials have already threatened to sue over the cuts. Four community colleges would also close under the budget plan, which does not call for a tax increase. Governor Rick Perry will release his own budget proposal soon. Lawmakers will debate the budget until May, the paper reports.
SCHOOL CLOSINGS: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie outlined a long list of education reforms during his first state of the state address to the legislature, one of the most controversial being a plan to close low-performing schools and give their students vouchers to attend private schools. Christie has spent his first year in office fighting with the state teachers' union, and his latest proposals suggest he is not ready to give up the battle. Meanwhile, Detroit school officials say they might have to close half the city's schools, boosting high school class sizes to 62 over the next two years unless the Michigan legislature comes through with more financial aid. The school system, which is looking to rid itself of a $327 million deficit over the next few years has already closed 30 schools this fiscal year. The proposal would leave the city with 72 schools, down from 142 today, according to the Detroit News .
FUNDING LAWSUIT: Parents in rural school South Dakota school districts are suing the state, arguing that state funding is not enough to offer an adequate education in more isolated areas, the Rapid City Journal reports. An attorney for the parents told the state's Supreme Court that the statewide base allocation of $4,804 shortchanges rural schools, which have fewer students. The court sided with the state in an earlier lawsuit in 2009. As Stateline reported recently, the budget crisis could lead districts and advocates in several states to file a wave of new school funding lawsuits this year.